The prohibition of placing a stumbling block before the blind applies only if the person could not have otherwise gotten hold of the forbidden substance, such as he was on the other side of the river. Thus if the idolater has another animal to sacrifice, the Jew does not transgress placing a stumbling block before the blind.
Note that the Talmud never got back to answering the original question—what is the reasoning for the prohibition of engaging in business with idolaters before their festival.
The mishnah said that one should not engage in business with idolaters for three days before their festivals. Our sugya asks what happens if one did—is the profit he gained prohibited for use?
This is the amoraic dispute on which the sugya is based.
Yohanan cites a baraita that seems to directly oppose Resh Lakish. But Resh Lakish solves it by saying it refers only to transactions that took place on the festival itself. If a Jew engaged in a transaction before the festival, the proceeds are permitted. Note that this is a limitation on Resh Lakish’s permission to use the proceeds.
In this version Resh Lakish tries to use the baraita as a difficulty on R. Yohanan. The baraita prohibits the proceeds only if they engaged in business on the festival itself. But R. Yohanan resolves the difficulty by saying that both before and on the festival can be called “festivals.”
This baraita teaches two things. First of all, the prohibition extends only to unperishable items. One can engage in transactions involving perishable items. Rashi explains that if one sells a perishable item, such as a vegetable, a few days before the festival, the item will not be there on the festival such that the idolater could thank his god for it.
Second, the proceeds of forbidden sales are permitted. This accords with Resh Lakish.
According to this source, one may sell them perishable items, because they will be used before the holiday. But one may not buy perishable items because this causes them a profit.
There are a various ways of understanding the relationship between this source and the previous one. According to one opinion, it is a stringency. The previous baraita seemed to say that one could engage in business with perishables. Here we learn that this is limited to selling them.
Judah Nesi’a, a rabbinic political leader, is presented with a dilemma. He is sent a gift by an idolater (again, the word “min” is used). If he accepts the gift, the idolater will go thank his gods for having the privilege to send a gift to a prominent rabbi (I know, this seems like a stretch). If he doesn’t accept it, the idolater will be angry and the rabbi does not want to increase the enmity between him and the Roman authorities. Resh Lakish’s solution is for R. Judah Hanesia to “accidentally” throw the money down the well.
This is a very “forced” story, especially the ending. The parallel in the Yerushalmi tells the story differently. I analyze the difference in my forthcoming book. So stay tuned!
This section goes back to the Mishnah and tries to explain why all economic activity is prohibited. For the most part it assumes that the prohibition is meant to prevent the Jew from causing the idolater to profit and in return thank his god.
The pattern of this section will be repeated twice below, so I will explain it only here. Giving anything to the idolater close to his holiday will cause them a profit, and thus it makes sense why it should be prohibited. But why should it be prohibited to take things from them? This only diminishes their property?
Abaye says that in essence, it is not prohibited to borrow things from them. But borrowing might lead to lending and therefore it too is prohibited.
Rava says that borrowing itself might lead to the idolater thanking his god. He will be so delighted that the Jew borrowed from him, that on his festival he will thank his god. [Yes, this seems to be a stretch].
In tomorrow’s section we will learn why the mishnah needed to repeat the same rule three times.
Today’s section explains why the mishnah needed to forbid engaging in business, lending and borrowing articles, lending and borrowing money and paying and reclaiming a debt. Why did it need to state the same thing so many times?
If the mishnah had taught only that business was prohibited, I might have thought that it is permitted to borrow from them. Business causes both sides to profit. But borrowing items does not give the lender a profit. Therefore, the mishnah had to teach that it too is prohibited.
To borrow an item from someone is to acknowledge their importance. Therefore, the idolater might go thank his god. But borrowing money is just a business transaction and might cause the idolater to worry that he will not recover his money. Therefore, we might think it is permitted. The mishnah teaches that it is not.
We might have thought that since he can get his money back when he lends, the idolater would still go and thank his god. But why would he thank his god for repaying a debt. That is simply losing money and causes pain to the one repaying the debt. Therefore, the mishnah needed to teach that even this type of economic interaction is prohibited. In essence, all economic interaction is prohibited.
Today’s section deals with R. Judah’s ruling in the mishnah. I quote it in full here for ease of reference: Rabbi Judah says: we should receive repayment from them, as this can only depress them; But they [the Rabbis] said to him: even though it is depressing at the time, they are glad of it subsequently.
Judah in our mishnah seems to contradict R. Judah’s opinion in another mishnah. This mishnah is about what one is allowed to do during the intermediate days of the festival (hol hamoed). The issue here is whether a woman can put a lime cream on her face (probably a whitening agent, women back then wanted to look whiter, not tanner). R. Judah allows this only if the positive results will occur during the festival. Although she will be disfigured temporarily, she will be happy during the festival. So here we see that R. Judah accepts the notion that we consider something to be joyous even if it causes temporary pain as long as the final result is joyful.
There are two answers here. R. Nahman b. Yitzchak says that everything that a person is allowed to do on the festival is currently a trouble but brings about pleasant results later. For instance, slaughtering an animal is difficult, but will bring about the pleasant result of having meat to eat. Thus there is nothing unusual here.
Ravina answers from a different angle altogether. R. Judah disagrees on the facts—he believes that idolaters will always be upset that they had to pay back the money. Thus this is not a case of something being troublesome now and pleasant later on.
This section relates to the prohibition in the mishnah of recovering debts from idolaters during the three days prior to their festivals.
Joshua b. Korha allows one to recover a debt made orally because such debts are generally hard to recover. We can see here that preventing the idolater from celebrating on his festival is not the primary consideration for R. Joshua b. Korha.
Here we can see some live action in the amoraic academy. Note the precision of the seating arrangements. R. Abba sits in front of R. Huna, the master, and recites traditions in front of him. R. Joseph is also present, and from what we can see below, is also in a position of authority. R. Abba, the student, recites two pithy halakhic rulings that seem to have nothing to do with one another. The Talmud is now left to figure out the meaning of these two rulings.
The ruling according to R. Joshua b. Korha is with regard to the matter at hand.
According to R. Meir, if the dyer dyes the wool the wrong color, the wool is now his and he must pay back the value of the undyed wool to the original owner.
Judah says that the owner must pay the lower of two values to the dyer: the cost of dyeing the wool (cost of dye and wood to heat the cauldron to cook the dye) or the increase in value of the wool. This way the original owner cannot lose out, but the dyer still might recover his costs. The halakhah, according to R. Abba, follows R. Judah.